Every once in a while, I am delighted to come upon a rebel with a vision; one who just knows what she wants to do despite going against the grain of my best laid plans. The person I am thinking of came into my drawing class four years ago, anxious and unsure about her abilities. For the first few weeks she would arrive at class and hover at the door of my studio, not sure whether she had the courage to come in, and I had the feeling that if I let her slip through my fingers, she would sprint back down to the gate and disappear into the night. She had just come through a difficult period of her life and was venturing into the unknown world of the arts in her brave attempt to heal. Despite her fears, she stuck with the classes, and gradually over the years has found her way back to her lovable self, a responsible yet mischievous rebel, who is now full of sparkle and confidence.
About a year after Lisl started the classes, she announced to the evening group that her daughter Anna, who was then 6 years old, wanted to know when she would be good enough at art to be able to draw a castle. Until she could draw a castle, Anna doubted whether her mother had any talent. So, the castle and all that it represented, loomed on the horizon for the next couple of years, and from time to time, we reminded her of her challenge, testing to see whether she felt she was ready to accomplish the feat. She would laugh, shake her head and say no, not yet…but one day.
Then at the beginning of last year, after a frustrating evening of drawing red peppers and oranges, she suddenly announced that she was ready. The castle was to begin. Before the evening was up, she had sketched her daughters’ castle and planned exactly what she wanted to do.
Construction began the following week, and through the weeks and months that followed, we watched with interest as first the landscape and then the castle began to materialize. We laughed affectionately with her as she threw herself into the task of creating a castle that would meet her daughters’ approval. Piece by piece the walls and turrets went up, the windows came down and then went up again. Throughout the process she watched herself and her response to the challenge, noting where she felt she was tight and interested to see when the colours flowed with ease. It soon became clear that the process of building her castle had become one more step on her road back to herself.
Construction of the castle halted a couple of times, whilst Lisl valiantly tried to conform to what the rest of the class were doing, but these forays never lasted long and soon she would return to her castle. Unfortunately, due to multiple responsibilities and a heavy workload, Lisl had to miss quite a few sessions over the past few months, but whenever she has appeared at the door with her bright and cheery smile, laughter has always followed as her castle makes its appearance. We have all become so used to seeing the work in progress, watching her persevere with stoic determination, that it’s got to the point that it’s difficult to imagine her working on anything else.
So we were all a little thrown last Tuesday evening, when the final piece of glass was inserted into the window frame, and a year after it was begun, the castle was declared complete!
So now we wait to see how Anna responds and whether, as a nine year old, she even remembers why she wanted a castle? Does it actually matter? The important thing is that her mother heard and honoured her call, and in so doing, healed and learned a whole lot more about herself. We, in turn, have had lots of laughs and have enjoyed being fellow travellers.
I suspect that this castle in it’s gilded frame is going to become a symbol that represents a whole lot more to Anna than what she originally intended.